Training: Papers‎ > ‎

(Walther + 2017)

A Model of Empathy in Engineering as a Core Skill, Practice Orientation, and Professional Way of Being


Engineers are increasingly being asked to empathically engage with a broad range of stakeholders. Current efforts to educate empathic engineers, however, are hindered by the lack of a conceptually cohesive understanding of, and language for, applying empathy to engineering. Prior studies have suggested that research informed by long‐standing traditions in other fields may provide the rigor, conceptual clarity, and expertise necessary to theoretically ground the education and practice of empathy in technical disciplines.

We propose a model of empathy in engineering as a teachable and learnable skill, a practice orientation, and a professional way of being. Expanding conceptions of empathy in social work, this model additionally emphasizes mode switching and a commitment to values pluralism.

Teaching for Empathy

"Empathy – as a construct, required skill, process, and orientation – appears consistently across social work practice textbooks

  •  (e.g., Gambrill, 2012
  • Hepworth & Larsen, 2010;
  •  Johnson & Yanca, 2010
  • Miley & DuBois, 2011;
  •  Shulman, 2011; Zastrow, 2012). 

In these textbooks, discussions of empathy vary in detail, but all identify empathy as a key foundational element of social work practice. In one of the most widely used practice texts, Hepworth et al. (2010) devote 18 pages to defining empathy, presenting its relevance in communication, and its application. 

In their framework, empathy is operationalized across five levels of increasing responsive depth (low to high). Students are provided with detailed explication of each level. "